Wallpapers have a long history in interior decorating. They can shift the mood in a room, make a small space appear larger and create a dramatic statement.
The love affair with wallpapers stretches back to the 12th century. It started with simple block-printing techniques that imitated luxury fabrics like silk damask and cotton chinoiserie.
Chintz is an enduring and beloved style of fabric, originally imported from India. It gets its name from the Hindi word chint, which means “spotted.” This fabric is made from calico (plain-woven cotton), and the floral patterns are woodblock printed or hand-painted. It is a vibrant, colorful fabric that has been in fashion for over 500 years and is a staple of many western interiors.
The earliest designs of chintz were simple and traditional, but gradually a growing interest in botanical illustration began to take hold. These textiles were influenced by the Mughal Empire of the 16th century, which was characterized by its beautiful gardens and love of flowers.
These designs soon spread throughout Europe and became the defining aesthetic of Indian chintz, which is still crafted today in India by artisans using methods that date back hundreds of years. The resiliency of kalamkari painters and printers, who were able to adapt to the changing needs and patronage of the time, is what made this enduring style so appealing.
Another important factor contributing to the popularity of chintz was that, unlike other fabrics at the time, it was easy to print and reproduce on a mass scale. This was because chintz is made from cotton, which can be printed by hand. This made it cheap and easy to produce large quantities of fabric at once, which in turn meant that it was more affordable to buy.
The Europeans who introduced chintz to the West also saw the fabrics as a way to boost their local textile industries, which was particularly important when they were still reliant on Asian manufacturers for their cotton base cloth. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Europe was also becoming interested in exotic plants that were discovered by global exploration, which led to a booming demand for fabrics like chintz with their botanical illustrations.
Despite this, chintz was quickly out of fashion by the time George Eliot coined her famous phrase, “chintzy.” This came as a result of modern trends like minimal design and neutral colors in furniture and decor. By the ’90s, chintz had lost its appeal to a generation of fashion and home design fans who preferred minimalist styles.
Flocked wallpaper first appeared in England and France around the end of the 16th century. It was probably introduced to Europe via the Dutch trade route from China and Japan. It was made using a technique called dusting, which involved strewing fiber dust over adhesive-coated surfaces.
Eventually, it was developed to imitate the look of luxury fabrics like velvet and silk damask. The style was highly popular, and by the 18th century many Londoners had their own custom-made flock papers.
Some people still use flocked paper today, but it is much less common than it was in the 18th century. Essentially it is paper that has been printed and then dyed sheep wool is added to give it a textured effect.
These flocked wallpapers were not only popular but they also proved extremely durable. They were more resistant to moths and stains than textile hangings, and they also absorbed dirt and dust far more effectively.
This made them a popular choice for bedrooms. A rococo-style pattern flocked in red and yellow on a pink background was hung in two first-floor rooms at Sir William Robinson’s house at 26 Soho Square in London in 1759-60.
The paper was also used in the parlours and drawing rooms. It was a style that was more fashionable than the other types of English wallpaper and they were often used by upper class families to decorate their homes.
It was also a style that was very popular in America. It was also known as Velvet or Damask paper, and it is thought that they were introduced to America in 1739 when Plunket Fleeson began printing wallpaper in Philadelphia.
Flocked wallpaper was very popular throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, with some historians arguing that it helped bring back the art of decorating homes in the manner that the British had done for a long time. It was also a great way to add interest to a room.
It is also very common to see flocked heat transfer vinyl on clothing and accessories today. It can be found on t-shirts, sweatshirts, and even the backs of jeans. It can be used to create a POP effect, and it is a fun alternative to embroidery on clothing or other items. It is a very inexpensive option to consider, and it can be a lot of fun to create!
During the 16th century, Europe was becoming aware of the exotic goods that were arriving from Asia via sea routes. These included silk, porcelain, and lacquer. It also began to import Chinese wallpaper.
Chinese papers were painted, not printed and featured large-scale, non-repeating pictorial scenes that could be laid out as a panoramic pattern. These were admired by Europeans who wanted to reproduce the exotic world they had seen in China on their own walls.
They also came to dominate the market for luxury wall coverings. This grew rapidly during the 17th and 18th centuries, with Chinese designs becoming increasingly popular for high-end interior decoration.
Many of these papers were produced in Guangzhou, on the southern coast of China. However, the trade in these products ceased after about 1760. The reason is unclear but may be that the Chinese government decided to limit and concentrate western trade in Guangzhou, preventing foreigners from visiting other ports.
The panels hung in the Chinese Bedroom at Felbrigg, dated to about 1752, are a good example of this style of imported wallpaper, with individual sheets arranged so that they form a continuous garden panorama. This must have been a painstaking process for paper-hangers, as they had to carefully fit the different sheets together without overlapping and creating visual breaks.
These panels feature a mixture of brightly coloured birds and flowers, which is typical for this type of export wallpaper. The motifs are probably a deliberate ‘product innovation’, meant to keep the European market interested in these exotic landscapes.
These images were often made up from traditional Chinese prints. Some of them were even drawn and printed by Chinese artists themselves. Despite the fact that these paintings are based on authentic sources, they were painted in an entirely different way from what the Chinese had originally done.
The British textile designer William Morris was a pioneer of the Arts and Crafts movement in England, revolutionizing Victorian taste. He created tapestries, wallpaper, fabrics, furniture and stained glass windows. He founded Morris & Co, a firm that influenced interior decoration in Britain for more than 50 years.
He also published several books on architecture and art, as well as a number of poems, essays, and short stories. His legacy has been celebrated by the William Morris Society, several art galleries and museums, and a variety of studies into his life.
Born in Walthamstow, East London, Morris developed an early appreciation for the craftsmanship and natural forms of design. He was also drawn to the thought of John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, whose members he met while attending Oxford University.
As a student, Morris was also deeply interested in architecture and ecclesiastical architecture. He was particularly fascinated by the sculptural qualities of ancient Roman churches. Rather than becoming a priest, as his mother had wanted, he became an artist.
During his lifetime, Morris drew more than fifty floral patterns for use as wallpaper. He designed them to mimic the textures and shapes of nature. He drew from his gardens, walks through the countryside and his extensive travels to France, Italy, Germany, and Austria.
In 1862, he began producing his first designs. Some of his first prints were sold in 1864, but he took many years to perfect his printing method. He used zinc plates, rather than silk-screen printing, for his work.
Morris’s designs often evoke the swirling leaves of a meadow or rose-filled trellises in the countryside. He was not a realist, but rather a highly imaginative artist who was attracted to the abstract qualities of his work.
Aside from his designs, Morris was a passionate and dedicated conservationist. His interest in preserving nature, rather than just making it better, was a major factor in the evolution of the Arts and Crafts movement.
His wallpapers, which were based on the design principles of his time, have a timeless quality that remains appealing to this day. As a result, his designs are still available in print, despite the decline of his business. Today, you can find his wallpapers in homes throughout the world.